8. Telegram From the Consulate in Elisabethville to the Department of State1
421. Re Department telegram 343.2During call on Minister Interior Munongo today I had occasion to raise question of treatment of prisoner Lumumba with him, in accordance with reference instruction, underlining that Department’s interest in his welfare stems from considerations [Page 21] of international opinion and not from tender feelings toward him. Munongo said, speaking for himself only, that he astounded that USG would raise question of welfare of prisoner while thousands of victims have died or will die throughout Congo which Communist Lumumba disrupted. When I repeated reason for USG position, Munongo said he and rest of Katanga Government stand on their own feet in present circumstances and give no credit to world opinion. Munongo added that in former times West African dictators such as Nkrumah or Sekou Toure had no influence in central Africa and Katanga Government intends that it remain that way.
Munongo said Lumumba in safe keeping outside Elisabethville and receiving same treatment as any prisoner anywhere in world. He did not indicate Lumumba being well-treated or in good physical condition. On other hand, Katanga Government today issued denial Lumumba beaten up on arrival here, adding that, as Consulate has reported,3 Lumumba arrived with head injuries. Berendsen4 told me UN report on arrival of prisoner did not indicate that any mistreatment occurred at airport.
Comment: I request Department’s opinion whether, in view of conversation with Munongo, this matter should be taken up with Tshombe himself. I believe such move would be counterproductive and would dissipate little remaining influence USG has here. Also, I believe that any effort to convince Katanga Government not to make use of its white legion in combatting Lumumbist ANC doomed to failure and would probably lead to another explosive incident between Tshombe and Consulate.
Further instructions requested.5
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 770G.00/1–2061. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Léopoldville.↩
- Telegram 343, January 18, instructed Canup to inform Tshombe that the U.S. Government deplored reports that Lumumba had been severely beaten by the gendarmerie upon his arrival at Elisabethville and it hoped he would be given humane treatment and his case disposed of in accordance with the law. (Ibid., 770G.00/1–1861) In telegram 412 from Elisabethville, January 18, Canup reported that Lumumba had been transferred there from Thysville and commented, “I believe there is certain chance authorities will permit harm to him, possibly ‘suicide’ or other mishap.” (Ibid.)↩
- Telegram 415 from Elisabethville, January 19, reported that all Consulate officers had heard reports from various sources that Lumumba had arrived in Elisabethville with a badly beaten face. (Ibid., 770G.00/1–1961)↩
- U.N. representative in Katanga Ian Berendsen.↩
- Telegram 354 to Elisabethville, January 23, stated that the approach to Munongo appeared to be sufficient and agreed that an approach to Tshombe might be counterproductive. (Department of State, Central Files, 770.G.00/1–2061)↩